Autonomous Wheelchairs Improve Airport Mobility

If you're older, or you have physical limitations, you'll appreciate this effort to make travel through airports as easy as travel between airports.

WHILL – makers of the cutting-edge Model Ci and Model A Intelligent Personal Electric Vehicles (EVs), today announced the trials of its autonomous driving Personal EVs at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) as an initiative to further the current mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) model worldwide.

This will be the second wave of WHILL autonomous trials, which appeared in Haneda Airport and Abu Dhabi Airport earlier this year and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol previously. Trials in Dallas took place November 14 and 15 (both semi and full autonomous), while Winnipeg semi-autonomous trials will take place December 12 and 13. After arriving at the airport, travelers with restricted mobility will be able to navigate the WHILL airport model through the airport to their gate, and once arrived, hit “return,” allowing the Personal EV to return itself to the original docking station. Full autonomous trials are slightly different from semi-autonomous trials as the WHILL airport model will freely drive itself to the desired destination upon the passenger selecting the required gate on the device, and then back to the original docking station. The WHILL airport model independently detects and avoids obstacles throughout the airport, including other people and objects, with sensors and automatic brakes.

“When traveling, checking in, getting through security and to the gate on time is critical to avoid the hassle and frustration of missing a flight,” said Satoshi Sugie, Founder and CEO of WHILL. “Travelers with reduced mobility usually have to wait longer times for an employee to bring them a wheelchair and be pushed to their gate, reducing their flexibility while traveling. We are now providing an opportunity for travelers with reduced mobility to have a sense of independence as they move about the airport and get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible. Our trials have proven to be successful in other countries and we’re excited to bring this initiative to North America for the first time.”

While long distance travel has been rapidly evolving and becoming more convenient for decades, limited innovation has been developed around moving shorter distances, especially for people with reduced mobility.

I can't resist this tongue-in-cheek 1928 story The Revolt of the Pedestrians from Golden Age scientifiction writer Dr. David H. Keller about a world in which human beings give up their own inborn method of locomotion in favor of autonomous Autocars:

... the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia was filled with the usual throng of pleasure seekers, each in his own auto-car.


(The Autocar from The Revolt of the Pedestrians)

Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed down the long aisles, pausing now and then before this exhibit or that which attracted their individual attention... Finally, a boy stopped his auto-car in front of a glass case.

"What is that, Father? They look as we do, only what peculiar shapes."

"That, my son, is a family of pedestrians... This family was shot in the Ozark mountains. It is believed they were the last in the world..."

Via News Wire.

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